“Tax Incentives”: Cut! That’s a Wrap!

Map of USA highlighting states with no income tax
Map of USA highlighting states with no income tax (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Movie and television producers say they just can’t afford to film in Florida without “tax incentives,” a mix of special tax treatment and outright corporate welfare. And with those welfare checks drying up (Rene Rodriquez, “Florida’s entertainment industry fights for flailing tax-incentive program,” Miami Herald, June 28), they’re reduced to grabbing some quick exterior shots for location flavor, then moving production to states where the legislatures are more willing to be more cavalier with taxpayer funds.

Re-combobulating state policy to spur “economic development” is a losing game. Every time a rent-seeking industry comes along demanding that taxpayers build them a sports stadium, kick back a portion of highly hypothetical “money we’re causing to come here” or cut them special slack on taxes, the eventual outcome turns out to be an economic wash at best.  Native residents and long-established, home-grown businesses pick up the tab for legislators’ mistakes. The only real gains come in the form of fancy lunches and campaign contributions for those legislators.

Fortunately, things are starting to change nationwide. As Rodriguez notes, in recent years “many states downsized or eliminated their incentive programs altogether.” That leaves Florida in great position to compete with Hollywood as a film center and win.

California demands a top state income tax rate of 13.3% from its citizens and residents. Florida takes no income tax at all. Florida also compares favorably with California (and the rest of the US) when it comes to sales and property taxes. The “tax incentives” are already there, no special programs needed!

When it comes to shooting locations, Florida competes well too. Aside from Arctic and mountainous terrain, there’s almost no outdoor environment or terrain type that can’t be either found or cheaply simulated in Florida. We’ve got jungle. We’ve got swamp. We’ve got evergreen and deciduous forest. We’ve got beach. We’ve got ocean. We’ve got island. We’ve got iconic cityscapes and bucolic farmland.

We’ve also got the infrastructure and the population to support as many studios and crews as care to come here, where they can make — and keep! — more money from their work.

We don’t need a bunch of tax jiggery-pokery and lobbyist-fueled legislative favoritism  to bring more television and movie production to Florida. We can get there by hopping off the corporate welfare/special interest merry-go-round and promoting our state as what it is: Hands down, the best place in America to do business.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.